WEST PITTSTON — A dreary Saturday afternoon was leading to some dreary football in the annual UNICO Charity Football Game.
Then Crestwood receiver Connor Sheloski brightened things up on his way to winning the inaugural Coach George Curry Most Valuable Player Trophy.
Sheloski caught one touchdown pass and set up another score with two receptions as the Pioneers defeated the Miners 17-7 at Wyoming Area’s stadium.
Sheloski finished with seven catches for 89 yards.
“It’s an honor to win the MVP,” Sheloski said. “But it’s a team game and we all did our part.”
There were nearly as many accepted penalties (23) as points. There were also 10 fumbles, five by each team, as a mist was present for a portion of the game. The first half ended scoreless, and two players and a Pioneers assistant were ejected.
“Sloppy. Sloppy game,” said Hanover Area coach Mike McCree, who coached the Miners. “We had turnovers. It hurt not having some of our better offensive lineman in the game. I thought the linebackers dominated on both sides.”
Sloppiness led to the first touchdown as Pioneers defensive lineman Mike Conway of Holy Redeemer recovered a Miners fumble at the Miners 7-yard line in the third quarter. Three plays later, GAR quarterback Garry Kroll threw a jumpball to Sheloski in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Sheloski appeared to take liberty with his defender, perhaps creating some separation with a bit of a push.
“Nah,” Sheloski said with a smile. “Well, maybe a little bit.”
Pioneers linebacker David Simpson, from Dallas, recovered a Miners fumble on the first play from scrimmage after Sheloski’s TD catch. The Pioneers then used the running of Crestwood’s Tanner Kahlau to move into position for a 23-yard field goal by Hazleton Area’s Tristan Williams.
Williams’ kick gave the Pioneers a 10-0 lead at 3:27 of the third quarter.
Mistakes and overall inefficiency plagued the Miners offense until Meyers running back Mark Robinson got his hands on the ball.
Robinson, a track standout who missed a good chunk of the season with an elbow injury, took a short pass from Northwest quarterback Jeremy Walsh and turned it into a 71-yard touchdown. At least five Pioneers had a crack at Robinson as he tightroped the left sideline.
“After the spin move I was like ‘Oh, snap. I’m still inbounds,’” Robinson said.
The touchdown moved the Miners within 10-7 with 2:28 remaining in the third. However, they never crossed midfield again.
Instead, the Pioneers went on a 73-yard scoring drive, with Sheloski catching slant passes from Dallas’ Matt Harrison for 27 and 18 yards.
After a couple short runs moved the ball to the Miners 5, Maurent made a cutback move and dived into the end zone for the game’s final score.
“I thought we had opportunities in the first half,” said Pioneers coach Scott Dennis, who coaches Holy Redeemer. “We had some difficulties with exchanges and things as you would expect in this kind of a game. But our kids never had any kind of panic look on the face. They kind of knew they were going to win this football game.
“We knew we could control the line of scrimmage, and we did a better job at that in the second half and we held on to the football.”
UNICO Charity Football Game
Pioneers 17, Miners 7
PIONEERS — Connor Sheloski 6 pass from Garry Kroll (Dave Klaproth kick), 6:16
PIONEERS — Tristan Williams 23 FG, 3:27
MINERS — Mark Robinson 71 pass from Jeremy Walsh (Ed Lukowski kick), 2:28
PIONEERS — Anthony Maurent 5 run (Klaproth kick), 3:35
RUSHING — Miners, Nick Eury 7-3, Ocyrus Leemoui-Brown 1-(minus-8), Jake Peters 7-16, Jeremy Walsh 9-47, Alec Norton 1-13, Mark Robinson 1-0, Jacob Soller 1-(minus-2), team 1-(minus-11). Pioneers, Garry Kroll 7-33, Maurent 16-54, David Simpson 5-23, Jose Cabrera 1-(minus-3), Matt Harrison 9-29, Tanner Kahlau 6-37, team 3-(minus-19).
PASSING — Miners, Peters 2-13-1-16, Walsh 5-9-1-93. Pioneers, Kroll 6-9-0-99, Harrison 5-9-0-88.
RECEIVING — Miners, Neno Agnello 1-(minus-1), Mike Brown 2-10, Bryce Harrison 1-13, Robinson 3-87. Pioneers, Cabrera 1-19, Sheloski 7-89, Tanner Gattuso 2-35, Maurent 1-44.
INTERCEPTIONS — Pioneers, Nick Koch 2-0.
MISSED FGs — Miners, 40S. Pioneers 43WL, 33BLK.
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar